Sports and Human History

The content below is from Episode 137 of the Who’d a Thunk It? Podcast


  • This week I recommend you watch the new and popular movie Slumberland on Netflix starring Jason Momoa
    • A young girl discovers a secret map to the dreamworld of Slumberland, and with the help of an eccentric outlaw, she traverses dreams and flees nightmares, with the hope that she will be able to see her late father again.
    • I liked it and give it a solid 8/10. Shannon gave it an 8.5/10.
    • The critics gave it horrible reviews 3/10. But I say you ignore them.
    • My biggest critique was that it came off as hoaky and some of the acting seemed a bit forced (mainly the actress that plays Nemo the main character), but she is a kid. This is a movie for kids. It’s rated PG. It was a feel-good movie with cool special effects, interesting concepts, and Jason Mamoa’s undeniable charisma and zaniness.
    • I know Jason Momoa is known as an action guy, but his comedic timing was great. I also think he does REALLY well with kids and child concepts.


  • I like sports. Hell, I even love sports. I don’t memorize stats or even watch professional sports on a consistent basis, but I do have a deep appreciation for each game.
  • Over the years I’ve heard tid bits of stories surrounding the history and origin of certain sports. So I decided to dig into that a little deeper and make a podcast episode about it.
  • I wanted to give an intro speech as to why sports matter, but I couldn’t find the best words so I googled it. I found an inspirational webpage on the topic from an unlikely and wholesome source: a dinky website called a football and cheer leader club for kids. The person what wrote this gets it.
    • If there is a better place than sports to teach kids how to be courageous, determined, persistent, and patient, studies don’t show it. Sports can teach kids to lead, to follow, to take responsibility, working with others, sportsmanship, and so much more. Every athlete, regardless of ability, has the opportunity to learn lifelong skills through sports, and every athlete deserves the opportunity to do so.
      • Sports matter because they can give a voice to the voiceless
      • Sports matter to our culture, but sadly the entertainment value has begun to outweigh the educational value of sports, and it has trickled down to the youth level. Yet they could be so much more than that.
      • Sports matter because they can change lives.
      • Sports matter because they might be the one positive in an otherwise crappy life for a kid.
      • Sports matter because they can provide a child with a positive, influential role model in a life that may not have one.
      • Sports matter because they reveal and develop character.
      • Sports matter, because they might keep a kid on the straight and narrow when other influences are leading him or her down a far darker path.
      • Sports matter for every kid, from the star quarterback to the kid who can barely run 10 yards without getting winded, but still has the courage to be in the arena, daring greatly.
      • Sports matter for every community that needs something to rally around.
      • Sports matter for everyone who wants a stronger, healthier nation.
      • It’s high time every one of us takes a stand and commits to doing them the right way.
Reference back to an older Who’d a Thunk It? episode about the Cleveland Indian’s 10 cent beer night and how horrific that turned out
  • Baseball
    • The most popular story about the origin of Baseball is that a guy named Abner Doubleday invented it in the summer of 1839 and later went on to be a Civil War hero.
      • But that story isn’t true and even Abner himself used to tell people he had nothing to do with the game’s conception.
        • Let’s take a moment to appreciate that old-timey name: Abner.
      • And before I reveal the actual origins of baseball, can you think of any existing sport that closely resembles Baseball?
        • I thought of one and as I started reading into my sources I found my suspicions were correct. Take a moment, see if you can think of anything.
    • Baseball is referenced in historic documents in America way back in the 1700’s.
    • A child’s game known as “rounders” was brought to New England from old England and played by kids in the Americas during some of the first colonies’ establishments. Rounders was combined with the English game of Cricket to make the modern sport of baseball.
    • When the American Revolutionary war kicked off, the game of baseball (or many variations of it) were being played all over the country. Neighborhood games amongst children, schoolyards, and colleges were playing some form of Baseball. Even the big cities started to pick up on the game by the mid 1800’s.
    • From
      • In September 1845, a group of New York City men founded the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club. One of them—volunteer firefighter and bank clerk Alexander Joy Cartwright—would codify a new set of rules that would form the basis for modern baseball, calling for a diamond-shaped infield, foul lines and the three-strike rule. He also abolished the dangerous practice of tagging runners by throwing balls at them.
      • Cartwright’s changes made the burgeoning pastime faster-paced and more challenging while clearly differentiating it from older games like cricket. In 1846, the Knickerbockers played the first official game of baseball against a team of cricket players, beginning a new, uniquely American tradition.
    • Japan and Baseball
      • Known as “yakyuu” in Japanese, which translates roughly to “field ball”, baseball arrived on Japan’s shores during the Meiji era, a period when the country was adopting more Western customs and practices. Horace Wilson, an American English teacher at the Kaisei Academy in Tokyo, first introduced baseball to Japan in 1872, and other American teachers and missionaries popularized the game throughout Japan in the 1870s and 1880s.
      • Baseball was the first sport played in Japan that had a focus on cooperative team play, unlike native sports such as sumo wrestling and kendo. Although the game didn’t see immediate success, university teams sprung up across the country and birthed a number of rivalries that are going strong today.
      • Baseball really began to gain popularity in Japan during the post-World War II period, thanks to the American GI’s who promoted the sport heavily and the Japanese corporations that backed the teams as sponsors (and still do to this day). A series of exhibition games played with American baseball legends like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Joe DiMaggio also helped popularize the sport. But perhaps the biggest draw of baseball was the discipline, hard work, and team effort that characterize the game and which greatly appealed to the Japanese work ethic.
  • Basketball
    • Before I talk about the origin story of modern basketball, I wanted to talk about an ancient game played on the North American continent for thousands of years (estimated as far back as 3,000 years ago).
    • The game is Tlachtli. It was played by the Aztecs and thought to have been played by the ancient and vanished culture of the Olmecs.
      • Lets jump to Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire (later known as Mexico City) in the year 1500 or so, or 7-Acatl on the Aztec calendar to watch this ancient game roughly resembling basketball.
      • Tlachtli is kind of like basketball. Games similar to basketball have been played all over Mesoamerica by peoples like the Aztec, the Maya, and the Olmec. The object of Tlachtli is to put a ball through a hoop made of stone at one end of a court. But unlike basketball, the players can’t use their hands. The Tlachtli ball is made of natural rubber, roughly the size of a bowling ball, and weighs about five pounds. (Getting it through the hoop without using the hands is so hard that the first team to score a goal wins.)
      • Also unlike basketball, where the losing team gets nothing worse than trash-talk from the winners, the losers in this game of tlachtli are going to have their heads chopped off after the game. The players are prisoners of war, the enemies of the Aztecs who are hosting the game. The game is a ritual honoring Amapan and Uappatzin, the patron deities of the game of tlachtli, and honoring Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of war.
    • When Dr. James Naismith was just a grad student at Springfield College in the winter of 1891-1892 invented modern Basketball.
      • The students there (specifically the men) were stuck inside during the cold Massachusetts winter months. They had a lot of pent-up energy that couldn’t expel on the football field. They were required to spend time in the school’s gymnasium doing things like “marching, calisthenics, and apparatus work.” Sounds like tons of fun huh? LOL, no it doesn’t. It sounds like mindless repetitive exercise and nothing compared to the thrilling and competitive nature of sports.
      • Along comes James Naismith, a 2nd year grad student in charge of this winter gym class. He was working under Luther Halsey Gulick, the superintendent of physical education at the time.
      • Gulick introduced a new course in the psychology of play. In class discussions, Gulick had stressed the need for a new indoor game, one “that would be interesting, easy to learn, and easy to play in the winter and by artificial light.” Two instructors had already tried and failed to devise activities that would interest the young men.
      • “Naismith,” Gulick said. “I want you to take that class and see what you can do with it.”
      • Much time and thought went into this new creation. It became an adaptation of many games of its time, including American rugby (passing), English rugby (the jump ball), lacrosse (use of a goal), soccer (the shape and size of the ball), and something called duck on a rock, a game Naismith had played with his childhood friends in Bennie’s Corners, Ontario. Duck on a rock used a ball and a goal that could not be rushed. The goal could not be slammed through, thus necessitating “a goal with a horizontal opening high enough so that the ball would have to be tossed into it, rather than being thrown.”
      • Naismith got the janitor to give him some 18 inch hoops and he nailed them to a couple of boards LOL
      • Naismith got his gym class to play the game and it was an instant hit.
      • Word of the new game spread like wildfire. It was an instant success. A few weeks after the game was invented, students introduced the game at their own YMCAs. The rules were printed in a College magazine, which was mailed to YMCAs around the country. Because of the College’s well-represented international student body, the game of basketball was introduced to many foreign nations in a relatively short period of time. High schools and colleges began to introduce the new game, and by 1905, basketball was officially recognized as a permanent winter sport.
      • There is some debate about whether Basketball was invented in Springfield College or the YMCA. Since my main source was Springfield College, I decided not to take sides lol.
  • Hockey
    • Hockey is a team sport in which two teams play against each other by controlling a ball or a puck trying to get it into the opponent’s goal. All players use hockey sticks during a game.
    • It is impossible to claim the exact time of the birth of hockey. We will probably never know for sure, but there are records of people participating in this kind of game about 4000 years ago. Since ball-stick games are as old as our civilization, the earliest origins may be from China, Persia or Egypt. Archeologists discovered that an early form of the ball-and-stick game was played in Greece the 5th century BC. At the time when Europeans sailed across the Atlantic and started settling North America, they discovered that Native Indian people had their games which were precursors of lacrosse. Furthermore, some museums today showcase evidence that hockey was played by Aztecs centuries before Columbus even discovered the New World.
    • Buried deep in Egypt’s Nile Valley lies the village of Beni Hasan, known for its ancient cliff tombs dating from 2000 BC. A drawing decorates one tomb, showing two men holding sticks with curved ends and standing over a ball. Add synthetic turf and shin guards, and it might pass for hockey at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
    • One of the world’s oldest known sports, hockey predates the Ancient Games of Olympia by perhaps 1200 years or more. Indeed, historians believe it existed in many of the world’s early civilizations.
    • The Arabs, Greeks, Romans, Persians and Ethiopians all played variations of the game. Several centuries before Christopher Columbus found his New World, the Aztec Indians were playing it in Central America. The Araucano Indians of Argentina invented a game similar to hockey called Cheuca, believing it would make them better warriors.
    • The modern game was formed in the middle of 19th century by British soldiers stationed in Canada. During the next 30 years, many leagues and amateur clubs were organized in Canada. By the beginning of the 20th century, ice hockey spread to England and the rest of European countries. Today, the sport is highly popular in Eastern Europe and North America.
      • It should be noted that some sources claimed the modern game was created in the British Isles.
    • J. G. Creighton was the Canadian from Halifax, Nova Scotia who created the first set of rules of ice hockey about 140 years ago. Upon arriving in Montreal, he presented hockey sticks and skates which were patented by Nova Scotia company in 1866.
    • Men’s hockey first appeared at the 1908 Olympic Games in London.
    • Ice hockey is Canada’s national winter sport. The country undoubtedly contributed to this sport more than any other so we could say this their tendency to regard ice hockey as their national sport is entirely justified. 
    • Fighting in Hockey
    • Rodney Dangerfield once said: “I went to a fight the other night, and a hockey game broke out.”
      • Fighting is an established tradition in North American ice hockey, with a long history that involves many levels of amateur and professional play and includes some notable individual fights.[1] Fights may be fought by enforcers, or “goons” (FrenchBagarreurs)[2]—players whose role is to fight and intimidate—on a given team,[3] and is governed by a system of unwritten rules that players, coachesofficials, and the media refer to as “the code”.[4] Some fights are spontaneous, while others are premeditated by the participants.[5] While officials tolerate fighting during hockey games, they impose a variety of penalties on players who engage in fights.
      • Fighting has been a part of ice hockey since the sport’s rise in popularity in 19th century Canada.[1] There are a number of theories behind the integration of fighting into the game; the most common is that the relative lack of rules in the early history of hockey encouraged physical intimidation and control.[1] Other theories include the poverty and high crime rates of local Canada in the 19th century
      • In the 2016-2017 National Hockey League (NHL) season, there were 372 fights out of 1,230 games – an average of 0.3 fights per game. Fighting in hockey has been banned nearly everywhere outside of the NHL, including youth games, college play, and the Winter Olympics. 
      • Fighting has been part of NHL hockey since the league’s formation in 1917 and its 1922 rule about what was then called “fisticuffs” (that’s an old-fashioned word for fighting). The current NHL rulebook addresses fighting in Rule 46, which defines a fight as at least one player punching or taking a swing at another player repeatedly, or players wrestling in a way that is difficult to break up. Players who fight are sent to the penalty box during the game, and may be subject to additional fines or suspensions.
      • In the early 1960s, there was a fight in about 20% of NHL games. That percentage increased to 100% by the 1980s, when there was an average of one fight every game. In 1992, the NHL introduced an instigator rule adding an extra two minutes in the penalty box for anyone caught starting a fight.
      • Fighting has since decreased: a fight broke out in 29-40% of NHL games from the 2000/2001 season to the 2013/2014 season. Games with fights have steadily decreased since, from 27% of games in the 2014/2015 season to 17% in the 2018/2019 season.
      • Pro
      • Allowing fighting makes the sport safer overall by holding players accountable.
      • Fighting draws fans and increases the game’s entertainment value.
      • Fighting is a hockey tradition that exists in the official rules and as an unwritten code among players.
      • Con
      • Fighting in hockey leads to concussions, mental health problems, and death.
      • Fighting at the professional level sets a bad example for kids.
      • Fighting in hockey glorifies violence.
  • So that’s my first episode on sports history. I didn’t even cover my favorite sport American Football, so I’m farely certain there will be more episodes like this one.
    • I mainly didn’t do more sports on this episode to keep the length of the episode down… and because I accidentally lost A LOT of notes.




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